Teaching kids how to Herp, neon-colored pot smokers, and owls that go screech in the night-ELM 24.2.2018

Teaching kids how to herp

This past survey was a great trip! I was able to take a couple kids on a quick survey. We didn’t find too many cool things, but overall they seemed to have a ton of fun! Both of them were so interested in herpetology! Talking to a ten-year-old who is as interested in something as I am is incredibly fulfilling. I’m still young, but looking back I realize that who I am today is due entirely because of a series of small events that impacted my life in large ways. It is my hope that someday this kid will grow up to be a conservationist, a herpetologist, or even just a citizen who is conscientious about wildlife, and say that he became the man he is today because of one encounter with a long-haired hippie that taught him how to herp.

When we returned to the cabin, I taught them how I measure and collect data on all the caught herps. I showed them (and let them!) how to use calipers to take the measurements of a brown anole (Anolis sangrei), and how to get flighty 5-lined skinks (Plestiodon fasciatus) into a container to weigh them. I watched them be amazed at how they could find the identity of almost any herp in North America by using a single dichotomous key. Walking them through how to identify a small gulf coast toad (Incilius nebulifer) based on cranial crests and thigh pores. To them it was just another choose-your-adventure book, but with real-world implications. They left before my night hike but I know they left with the experience to last them a lifetime.


Night Hike

I set out at night with Brittany to look for a few more herps. The warm and humid day, quickly turned into a cool and damp night. We were doubtful we would find anything slithering about. And we were right! Not a single herp, other than the bullfrogs at the pond, were found. But that was no problem, Edith L. Moore is full of surprises.

While setting up traps I noticed a truck in the parking lot. The park closed at 7, and this couple hadn’t returned before the gates shut them out. We figured we’d wait by the entrance while setting up the minnow traps. As each trap was baited and placed into the water the couple never showed up. Then, from the woods, we heard a cough.

As we walked towards stifled noises, we noticed a faint smell of weed. Great. Just a couple of pot-smoking teens looking for an escape on private property. Getting further into the woods my headlight stumbled upon a bright neon blue and yellow hammock. They stayed there folded up, for way too long. It looked as if they truly believed that their safety vest material sleeping arrangement could stay undetected from the intense light of a very powerful headlamp.  They ‘noticed’ me and what ensued was a series of awkward exchanges and apologies. I told them to leave, and if they had trouble getting past the gate to just give me a holler.

We went back to the pond to set up traps. A few minutes passed and they came out of the woods and told us to have a nice night….. as they walked down the wrong path…. away from their vehicle… trying to set up another neon colored, pot and make-out session somewhere else in the woods. Teenagers… What can I say?

We decided that herping while searching for these kids would be the most efficient way to spend our night. While searching for a pair of teens whom we hoped were clothed, we found several screech owls. I got some great photos before they flew away into the night.

After an hour-long hike of us saying into the woods that we were going to call the constable (we weren’t) and that we’d need to get a tow truck (we didn’t) we never found the “adventurous” teens. While going back to the cabin, we noticed a pair of tail lights leaving the parking lot. Rushing out towards their vehicle they drove off. We just missed them! Standing in front of an open gate (which we think they forced) we saw that they had finally left right before our eyes.

Trying to sleep

Trying to sleep, exhausted from herping for edgy teens, we heard the shakes and rattles of the creaky old cabin. Several times through the night we woke up and stayed that way. Noises from the park were twisted and transformed into moments of brief terror. Every rattle of the windows sounded like someone trying to break in. Every creak of a limb sounded like the back door slowly opening. Every thunderous roar from the sky sounded like someone banging down the walls. It should have come to no surprise when I was jolted awake again by the sound of incredibly heavy rain at 3 AM.

Realizing I had placed minnow traps in the creek I rushed out to fish out any animals trapped in the mesh prisons I had set out. I did not want any animal to drown by my own hands. Running down into the creek I saw that the water had risen at least three feet in only a few hours. Spotting the corner of my trap just below the water line I ran out into the water. The trap had completely collapsed under the force of the water. Getting it out I sighed a breath of relief. Nothing was trapped.

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